STOCKHOLM – After two days off to clear their heads and rest up after losing to Switzerland, the Czech Republic rebounded today with a 2-1 win over Denmark. But the Czechs needed a shootout to avoid a historic loss.
Video: Highlights, Post-Game Interviews
The game was a nail biter with both teams scoring in the third to send the game into overtime then a shootout.
Zbynek Irgl’s two goals in the shootout closed the books on a game that was closely contested.
"We battled for each other and believed the whole game that we could win," said Danish goaltender Simon Nielsen. "We were down in the third period and we came back. It's something to be proud of, but it's still tough to lose on the last shot."
The first period was a defensive affair with both teams having limited chances. Both teams seemed somewhat cautious, not wanting to make the big mistake that would lead to a goal.
"We probably had a little more pressure on us today, but you can see teams are really even now," said Zdenek Kutlak. "Every team can skate a play a system. Back in the day, you could beat someone 8-0 or 10-0, but not any more."
Shot totals were kept low, defensive coverage was tight and both sides stayed fairly disciplined in not taking needless penalties. This set up a chess match in the early game at the Globe Arena.
Denmark closed the first period on a power play that carried through into the second. They moved the puck well but could not convert. The Czechs outshot Denmark 7-4 in the period.
Things continued along the same way in the second period.
Jiri Tlusty had a chance from a nice cross-slot feed from Jakub Voracek that was snared by Simon Nielsen making his third start of the tournament.
Assistant captain Stefan Lassen was called for a double minor for high sticking on Jiri Hudler that provided the Czechs with the opportunity they needed. The penalty was called at 19:40 of the period. The Czech Republic would have 3:39 to start the third to get something going offensively.
Denmark started the period strong, killing off the penalty and drawing one of their own. But still could not pull the trigger and get on the board.
Zbynek Michalek’s goal at 14:07 helped break a scoreless tie as these teams were locked in a defensive struggle for the entire game. For Michalek, it was a timely score and his first of the tournament.
Michalek delivered with his slapshot down the wing to provide the first goal of the game and all that would be needed. His shot went low stick side of Nielsen who was helpless to stop it. Petr Hubacek and Ladislav Smid received assists on the play.
The Danes would not give up. With 4:05 remaining in the period Morten Poulsen scored on a beautiful pass from Kim Staal. Pavelec had no chance to react and Poulsen an empty side of the net to slam it home.
"We didn't have a very good start," said Kutlak. "We waited so long to score, but then we got one and they got it back. But we have to be honest; they deserved it. They played a pretty good game."
The goal gave the Danes new life and sent the game into overtime.
In overtime Jesper B. Jensen was called for tripping, giving the Czech Republic and opportunity but to no avail. Instead the game would go to a shootout.
In the second round of the shootout, Irgl’s two goals paved the path the the win.
Recently added goaltender Ondrej Pavelec provided experience and a steadying force in goal that was critical throughout, especially when the game was a scoreless tie.
Pavelec arrived just in time to a Czech team that’s struggled in net over its last two games.
The Czechs will now play Slovenia tomorrow with a chance to add another win and bolster their playoff prospects. Denmark takes on the red-hot Switzerland.